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November 16, 2012

A hard lesson in tackling

NORMAN — There was a golden opportunity to force a three-and-out in Oklahoma’s first defensive series against Baylor. A third-and-four pass bounced off Baylor receiver Antwan Goodley’s hands just as OU safety Javon Harris drove the crown of his helmet right into his face mask.

Penalty flags flew, and everyone knew why. OU coach Bob Stoops was livid, but not at the officiating crew. It was Harris who drew his ire.

“I was just showing them Thursday in the team meeting a clip that came from the Big 12 office about targeting,” Stoops said earlier this week. “It wasn’t excessive to the point of being a suspension or anything, but should have been called but wasn’t. It was plain as day, and explained and very similar. He needs to hit him lower.”

There’s a line that defensive players are going to have to learn not to cross. Hitting vulnerable receivers and quarterbacks above the neck just isn’t tolerated anymore.

Harris has been flagged for those kinds of hits a couple times the last two seasons. He understands why they were called. It’s easy when you’re removed from it. When you’re the one making the split-second decision, it’s different.

“I know I’ve been susceptible to that rule and trying to find that medium to where I should hit someone,” Harris said. “I’ve always been a firm believer in going hard. Sometimes they count it as that type of play and sometimes they let it go as a big hit. It’s hard. Especially when coach shows us videos of the different angles. A lot of times, when you are going hard, you don’t think too much about what’s going on as far as if I should hit this guy in the legs … to me, I’m never going to aim at a guy’s face mask. I honestly didn’t think that I did on Saturday. It was the fact that I was in that position. The best thing to do is continue to play hard. You really can’t do too much about it. As long as I feel like I’m going in there wrapping up, I’m not going to slow down.”

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